Carne Treleaven has lived his entire life by the sea and, though it has taken plenty, it has also given him a profession. When they aren’t fishing, he and the rest of his small Cornish village supplement their incomes by smuggling. Though a time-honored tradition in their part of the world, their illicit activities make them understandably leery of strangers. When Professor Phillip Singleton ambles into the village, he inadvertently threatens everything Carne and the other villagers are desperate to protect.
When they first meet, Carne tries to drive Phillip off, warning him against sticking his nose into village matters. But Phillip is determined to explore the history of the coast and proceeds to do so armed with a camera, his natural charm, and an abundance of curiosity. Carne reluctantly agrees to assist the outsider and he can’t help his growing attraction. Luckily, the attraction is mutual and as he and Phillip begin a tentative relationship, Carne starts to think of life beyond the village where he was born. But smuggling is a dangerous job and when Phillip stumbles onto the village secret, it will take all of Carne’s strength to save them both.
The Professor and the Smuggler was a wonderful read, full of romance and action. The authoring duo of Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon have been favorites of mine for some time and this book represents a fine return to form. The story surrounds the fairly well known smuggling history off the Cornish coast in Britain and it provides an excellent backdrop for the burgeoning romance between Carne and Phillip. The authors do a good job of describing the distinctiveness of Cornwall and providing readers a strong sense of time and place. The village of Par Gwynear is given a life of its own with villains and heroes and an essence that is both unique and relatable all at once. This aspect of The Professor and the Smuggler was a real strongpoint and made the entire story even more fun.
Carne and Phillip are truly opposites who happen to attract. Carne is gruff and quiet and carries the weight of the world on his shoulders. He feels responsible for the village, for keeping them safe and fed through the hard coastal winters. He and the rest of Par Gwynear are dependent upon smuggling to augment their meager earnings from fishing. He is naturally suspicious, but Phillip brings out his desire to love and protect. Phillip is not exactly bumbling, but he is a man with his head in the clouds. He dreams of writing a book of British history and his relaxed charm and open honesty make him both irresistible and something of an easy target. These two men work well together and their relationship is believable almost from the start. Despite the fact that the idea of love between them moved too quickly, the balance between them still felt fairly natural. I would have enjoyed reading a more leisurely version of their romance and instead we get a relationship that is somewhat rushed and always on the verge of falling apart. Still, this is a minor niggle and the hurried nature of their liaison did add a certain anticipatory spice to the story that balanced everything out.
There was little about The Professor and the Smuggler that I didn’t enjoy, though there is one section could have use a bit of bolstering. Phillip and Carne have a rather predictable conflict towards the last third of the book and Phillip is essentially tossed out of the village. This entire scene is rather melodramatic and never really amounts to much as Phillip quickly returns and the story continues. Though I understand the basic purpose of its inclusion, it’s one of the few areas of the story that feels both unnecessary and altogether too ordinary. Again it’s a minor hiccup but one that took me out of the moment rather than immerse me further.
Overall The Professor and the Smuggler was an enjoyable, fast paced read that captured the historical emotion and reality of turn of the century Cornwall. Phillip and Carne are both well-developed characters that will appeal to readers on almost every level. I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of action and two rather dashing main characters.